Page 2: Taking the plunge
There are some weeks where so much crap bubbles to the surface that you wish you’d never succumbed to the allure of indoor plumbing.
Outhouses don’t need plungers.
Destination resorts not only require plungers, but a plumber on standby 24/7.
In the future, I believe all tax measures should start with Y. Measure Y, or Measure YYY, or Measure YAMISOGULLIBLE.
Just consider Measures R and U. That’s what Town Attorney Andrew Morris has done recently at the behest of Mammoth’s Town Council.
If you thought the money we decided to raise by taxing ourselves was sacrosanct, think again. Your intent is no match for an attorney’s creativity. Your intent cannot stop a Council which needs the money to pay off past mistakes.
As the background to a Sept. 16 memo states, “In light of the Town’s current budget difficulties, the Town Council is evaluating different funding and budget options. As part of this, some have questioned whether the Town can reduce general fund funding for projects currently receiving Measure R or Measure U funding. They question whether reducing funding or service levels would violate the requirement that Measure R and Measure U funding not ‘supplant’ existing funding.”
Now we all recall the circumstances surrounding the Measure R campaign in 2008. At the time, a key part of the debate was general tax versus special tax. Mammoth Lakes Trails and Public Access (MLTPA) CEO John Wentworth specifically urged that a special tax requiring a 2/3 majority be approved precisely so ravenous politicians couldn’t get their paws on it.
But as Morris states in his opinion’s analysis, “Voters cannot impair the Town Council’s authority over fiscal management.”
He adds, “Courts have held that initiatives that impose minimum spending floors impair fiscal management.”
So if we thought R would solely be used on projects over-and-above whatever we were spending on recreation at the time, forget it. Because circumstances dictate that baseline will almost certainly be reduced.
We ultimately taxed ourselves with Measures R and U to pay off the airport litigation judgment, no matter how directly or indirectly you’d like to define it.
Of course, Council was more than happy to see us innocently raise those funds in a naive belief that we were investing in ourselves. We lost the Hot Creek case before either R or U were passed. It’s interesting that no one stopped to think about the ramifications of how any and all town revenues might be in play if the airport judgment happened to stick.
The next interesting question is how the inevitable draining of Measure R will affect recreation. What Wentworth said at Wednesday’s Recreation Commission meeting is that they shouldn’t be sucked into believing that it’s either/or in regard to municipal recreation and trails. “It’s a false choice,” he said. “We’re going to figure out a way through.”
As for Measure R, he said the silver lining is this. If we had passed a general tax in 2008, recreation could’ve been conceivably completely gutted because R would’ve been routed directly to the general fund. Better to backfill recreation spending with Measure R than be faced with no money at all.
He also believes that the Town and Forest Service are on the brink of an historic partnership agreement. “I think we’re doing great stuff.”
Some doubting Thomases came out of the woodwork this week, however, notably Sandy Hogan.
The retired Assistant Forest Supervisor said of MLTPA, “It’s time to stop funding an organization that isn’t producing a lot on the ground.”
She described Wentworth as riveting and charismatic, but characterized MLTPA’s efforts as more pre-planning than planning, and thinks the Town should have gotten more for its $1.2 million funding of MLTPA over the past three years.
MLTPA’s website does list a staff totaling 15 people.
John Wentworth, however, is MLTPA’s only full-time employee.
“There are plenty of shovel-ready projects out there right now,” said Gail Lonne of the Mammoth Lakes Tennis Club. “These guys are eating up a good percentage of the [Measure R] money”
Wentworth’s short response would be that once the Trails System Master Plan is adopted in a few weeks, this will truly augur in the shovel era for the Mammoth Lakes Trail System.